Most rock climbing news items on UKC are of climbers succeeding on a route, not failing, but when we heard that Hazel Findlay had fallen from the lower unprotected section of Impact Day (E8/9 6c), we dropped her a line to make sure she was okay. She was. Sometimes failures make more interesting stories than successes, and with Hazel luckily coming away with just cuts and bruises, this is one of those times.
"It's mainly whiplash," she explained. "I can't chew or yawn or look at people too quickly, but that's ok, I can walk!"
Hazel was attempting the Dave Birkett route Impact Day at Pavey Ark, Langdale. The route was originally graded E9, but some subsequent ascensionists have thought more like E8. The lower wall is 'easier' climbing, but virtually unprotected, and the upper hard crux, with a tough move off a mono hold, is above reasonable gear.
The route, a pristine hanging wall of volcanic rock, is set high on a hillside above a grassy ledge system. It's this ledge system that Hazel hit in her fall.
Impact Day has had quite a few repeats, with George Ullrich climbing it some years ago, James Pearson repeating it at the end of his recent road trip around the UK, and now Neil Mawson climbing it shortly before Hazel's fall. It was also attempted onsight over ten years ago by a young and on-form Ben Bransby, who got to virtually the last move before peeling off, in what was at the time a ground-breaking effort.
Dave Birkett on 'Impact Day' E8/9 6c, Pavey Ark. Available as a desktop.
Alastair Lee, Sep 2006
© Alastair Lee - Posingproductions.com
After she told us she was okay, and happy to chat about the fall, we asked Hazel a few questions:
"Neil Mawson, Charlie Woodburn and myself were trying it quite late in the day. Neil tried it on top rope then did it fairly easily, just making a few grunts at the top. Then Charlie tried it and fell off the last move. It was pretty cold and whilst everyone was trying it I decided that I wasn't going to lead it. The route isn't 'that bold', and has been downgraded by most to E8. But the start is basically unprotected and the moves are very long. On top rope I had never fallen off the lower moves, but the way I did them was pretty dynamic on poor feet. I knew I felt nervous about the start moves and that I found them much harder than Neil and Charlie, who are taller. It was also my 7th day climbing in a row and my skin was really thin. But.... watching them climb got me psyched and the upper crux moves felt very easy on top rope, so I thought I should just go for it."
So, you went for it and fell off? What happened?
"I fell because I had a mental block when I set up for the first hard move. I expected it to feel easy, I'm not sure why, I think because I had it in my mind that unprotected head points should feel easy. So I think I didn't try hard enough to get the hold, and then maybe I even tried to reverse the move and then just peeled away from the wall. I hit a ledge - which I would have hit anyway - but then the small cam I placed also ripped, so I fell past Neil about 6 metres straight onto the belay. It was all slabby below so I sort of scraped down head first. One of the ropes caught on, luckily not around, my neck and the other one went around my leg."
Hazel was lucky to get away with bruised ribs, rope burns and whiplash.
Any thoughts following the fall?
"I was pretty angry at myself for making quite a few obvious errors. But I suppose it was a good thing in the sense that I learnt a number of lessons without hurting myself too badly. At the moment I'm thinking that I'll get on it again, but I'm guessing I'll be quite scared if and when I get around to it."
Like a true British trad climber, after her fall Hazel marched straight down to the local pub and downed a pint of ale.
We wish her a speedy recovery, and if she does decide to have another go, we wish her good luck. Keep safe Hazel!
And of course congratulations to Neil Mawson on his incident free ascent. Well done Neil!